A study has shown that a broken heart hurts in the same way as pangs of intense physical pain. The research demonstrated that the same regions of the brain that become active in response to painful sensory experiences are activated during intense experiences of social rejection, or social loss generally. "These results give new meaning to the idea that social rejection 'hurts'," said University of Michigan social psychologist Ethan Kross, lead author of the article. The Michigan research implicates the secondary somatosensory cortex and the dorsal posterior insula.
The psychologist and writer Dorothy Rowe collected that she thought of heartbreak as an empty cliché until she experienced it herself as an adult. Heartbreak can sometimes lead people to seek medical help for the physical symptom, and may then be related to a somatoform disorder.
The neurological process involved in the perception of heartache is not known, but is thought to involve the anterior cingulate cortex of the brain, which during stress may overstimulate to vagus nerve causing pain, nausea or muscle tightness in the chest.